Truth be told, Scrumptious Chef Pop Up Restaurant #8 is all a bit of a haze.
After four 12 hour shifts in the commissary followed by a 3am – 10pm shift cooking and hustling out food to over 200 people; memories are hard to come by.
We’ve stepped up our game considerably now that we’ve begun to find our kitchen rhythm. First and foremost, we’ve got a dedicated, core group of eaters who are coming to each and every pop up. And they’ve made their opinions loud and clear about what’s working, what’s not, and what we can do to improve the quality of the affairs.
At one point last night if a bomb had fallen on Tamale House East, the Austin food writing community would’ve lost a couple dozen of its brightest workers. It’s gratifying to cook for people who endlessly prowl the dark side-streets of Austin for obscure, delicious food and beer then blog about it.
Nerve wracking too.
When we ran an ad seeking sponsors so we could upgrade our grocery buying, we had no idea St Arnold Brewing Company would get on board, but after downing a half dozen pints of their Icon Belgian ale last night we’re glad they did. Made Sunday morning a mite rough though.
Sourcing: We began daydreaming about improving our gathering and foraging techniques a couple months ago when the Discovery Channel contacted us about doing a special pop up event for one of their new reality shows. Ultimately the deal fell apart, but we’d put calls into some seriously expensive vendors so the idea began fermenting.
For last night’s pop up we used: Eden’s Cove Farm, Johnson’s Backyard Garden, Windy Hill Organics and Easy Tiger Bake Shop. In other words; pretty much the best purveyors in Central Texas. Salt and Time Butcher Shop took care of the fine points of butchery on the heritage pork.
At 5:45 pm yesterday a line began forming outside Tamale House East. We had 190 reservations on the books and folks were anxious to make their way inside. Word is out that our events sell out of food in 2-3 hours time.
The next few hours were a blur. We had our big sous vide circulator cranked up in the back along with a flamethrower, a bunch of scorching hot antique cast iron pans and the flat top griddle running as hot as the sun. As the giant hunks of pork sizzled in the iron pan, Chef Homer blasted the tops of the meat with his flamethrower.
A line cook with a flame thrower!
The Scrumptious Chef crew easily could’ve went down in flames once the first wave of a hundred people all filed in within a half hour or so but nobody freaked out and ran bawling out the back door. Which is exactly what I want to do at least once per pop up.
Homer, Ryan, Paul and Jenn all stayed calm and cool in spite of a crushing load of eaters who steadily mowed down our reserves til we finally had to call it a day 2+ hours into service.
Then feedback started drifting in. The Large Black heritage pork was easily the star of the affair. The pork shoulder steaks sold out in less than 30 minutes followed by the pork loin cutlets, the bacon steaks and the porchetta.
Hell even the vegetarian platters rang up good and strong. At a pork party! Looks like the Johnson’s Backyard Garden connection’s going to pay off. After a long afternoon in the circulator the portabella caps came out looking to step into the spotlight-and they did.
We consulted with Diana Sanchez over at Jack Allen’s kitchen on our dessert offering. She works about 90 hours a week so she was unable to actually collaborate but she did offer Texas Sheet Cake as a dessert idea. We ran with it, and sold it out in 90 minutes.
60 boudin links went out the door in about 2 hours. After a long, arduous shift on the grinder/extruder their popularity was pleasing.
The only dish that’s going to be on every single menu we pen is Chile con Queso. We’ve tweaked the recipe considerably over the past 7 months and now have a version that’s solid Texas Gold. 6 quarts were guzzled.
16 quarts of Chile Colorado went out the kitchen next. We take a lot of pride in our chili making and y’all have responded justly. We normally don’t make pork chili but given the theme of the event we were left with no choice.
Since we run a zero waste kitchen we were determined to use the head of the pig fully. After roasting for 8 hours at 190 degrees the meat fell straight off the skull. We then constructed an 8 quart kettle of Brownsville Barbacoa Beans. A pound of fresh jalapenos powered the pot.
Like any good restaurant, the crew retired to the great outdoors after the event. We sat around for a couple hours drinking pints and rehashing what worked, what did not, and how we’re going to run our next event menu. Watch this space for details on Big Beef Bonanza, our homage to Japanese cows living on the fertile soil of Yoakum, Texas.
Thanks y’all. We appreciate all the business.
post script: We rang up a lot of checks on Saturday night for 3, 5 and 8 dollars. Young bucks strolling in with a handful of greenbacks wearing Minor Threat t-shirts came out in force to our pop up. Considering that most of these style events in Austin start at $65 and go upwards of $200 we were mighty happy that normal folks who live on modest wages have found our food parties.